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Though Cantine Florio is one of Marsala’s most historic producers, it’s no stranger to innovation: Founded in 1833, it was the first Italian winery to produce and export Marsala. Now, this trailblazer is transforming perceptions of Marsala, proving that it can pair just as well with a wide range of foods as it can create intriguing cocktails.
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in western Sicily—the only place that authentic Marsala can be produced—Cantine Florio produces a wide range of Marsalas from the region’s native varieties, particularly Grillo.
“Marsala offers variety, versatility, and profitability to our customers, and we are excited to grow the Florio brand with VecchioFlorio and the Reserve line,” says Ray Stoughton, EVP and general manager of Disaronno International, the importer and marketer of Florio in the U.S. All of Florio’s Marsalas, which include the classic VecchioFlorio line (VecchioFlorio Dry and VecchioFlorio Sweet) and the Reserve line (Targa, Terre Arse, and Oltre Cento), are aged for extended periods of time in oak barrels, which brings complex notes of nuts and dried fruit to the fortified wines.
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But just as Cantine Florio launched Marsala as a category nearly 200 years ago, the producer is now sparking a new era of consumption by proving that Marsala is no longer just a dessert or cooking wine. Florio emphasizes that Marsala is a versatile, high-quality wine that can pair with a range of foods and create an intriguing and innovative cocktail.
“We are excited to bring an elevated experience of Marsala to consumers, so they can learn the true essence of Sicily,” says Giacomo Tarquini, the global marketing director for Florio. With options ranging from dry to sweet, Florio’s Marsalas offer endless pairing possibilities across a range of cuisines. Contrast rich, nutty, dried fruit flavors with salty cheeses like Parmigiano-Reggiano or blue cheese, or explore how a touch of sweetness can cool down the spicy flavors of Szechuan chicken.
Increasingly, bartenders and sommeliers are using Florio’s Marsalas as high-quality cocktail ingredients, from simple preparations like Terre Arse with tonic to more creative ones in place of vermouth, for example. Disaronno International is showcasing Marsala’s potential in mixology with the Manhattan Superiore, a twist on a classic with The Busker Irish Whiskey and VecchioFlorio Sweet Marsala.
“The substitution of Marsala, a true hidden gem, for the classic vermouth gives the cocktail tremendous additional complexity and nuance,” says Erik Segelbaum, the founder of SOMLYAY.
Adds Sly Cosmopoulos, the director of beverage marketing for Republic National Distributing Company, “If you are looking for a slight twist or something other than an Old Fashioned or Manhattan, this is the ideal drink.” With a long history of crafting high-quality Marsalas, Cantine Florio is ideally positioned to challenge and transform perspectives of traditional Marsala consumption. Get ready—Marsala is making a comeback.